Another way Virtual Reality can change the world

No more Us v Them – with its wars and power strangleholds (mostly by straight white men).
Be comforted and swaddled by a person not of your race and culture, in a haptic jacket of course.

Lisa Fischer -A Star in Her Own Right

Just saw the amazing Lisa Fischer in Berkeley. Best show I’ve seen in a long time. By someone I had barely heard of, though we’ve all heard her singing backup for The Rolling Stones, Sting, Luther Vandross, Nine Inch Nails and many more megastars. Launched to newfound fame, ironically, by the recent documentary “20 Feet From Stardom”, about noted backup singers. 

Mesmerizingly sensual, spiritual and political – often in the same song – Ms. Fischer has taken from the masters and made a style all her own. If you get a chance, run don’t walk to see her perform.

Many thanks to Jimmy Reynolds for the providing the experience.

RIP Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher – My favorite fellow recovering, mental-health challenged, metacelebrity – on ageing:“Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well. Unfortunately it hurts all of my feelings. My body hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.” Via Twitter


Good For You

Medical advancements continue in the 21st century at an amazing pace, but the rest of healthcare is playing catch up. Only in the last few years have we built a constructive path towards providing affordable healthcare for all U.S. citizens. Also lagging has been the implementation of computer technology, though thanks to a large infusion of government funds as part of the recovery from the Great Recession, electronic health records have finally been implemented nationwide.

So what do we do with all this new technology? What do we do now that healthcare is connected and wired up?

Everyone can avail themselves of new medical advancements, but doing so may not always be a straightforward proposition, as the following anecdote helps illustrate:

When I was a kid, a line of products hit the market which attempted to solve the continuing problem of getting kids to eat their vegetables. The solution: wrap vegetables in french fries! I remember clamoring for my parents to buy these products, catchily named “I Hate Peas”, “I Hate Carrots”, and so on. These weird concoctions didn’t taste as bad as their namesake vegetables, but they didn’t taste as good as french fries either. Quickly passing in and out of our household and likewise consumer culture, their memory remains as part of a recurring theme in my life – I want what is good for me, but more importantly, I want to like it!

And so it goes with devices, apps, and activities that are good for us.

Many of us are overweight, not in good physical shape, overly stressed – in large part because healthy behaviours are not fun or rewarding enough. They seem too difficult.

So how can we use technology and other modern methods to make healthy behaviours more fun and more rewarding?

There are already working examples. The 10000-steps-a-day goal and easy-to-use calorie counters are major motivators for fitness band wearers to learn and practice healthy behaviours.

One area of tremendous promise is Virtual Reality (VR for short). Affordable and lightweight VR headsets are just now hitting the market, along with the first wave of apps. Soon everyone will be able to enter amazing environments which can encourage virtual speedwalking, skiing, and even dancing. Who wouldn’t want to stride through fabulous locations, ski over gorgeous landscapes or join in dancing to our favorite music with wonderful virtual partners?

 Healthcare providers and insurers, who are in the business of promoting healthy behaviours, could offset the cost of VR gear and apps and therefore bring more people to healthier, and yes, fun lifestyles. Even those who use VR without much physical activity can enjoy therapeutic benefits for stress, depression and other mental issues – some without even knowing it! And once people are engaged in new activities using VR, they can continue many activities the old-fashioned way, in the real world.

We are in an exciting time of technological advancements, but it is ultimately up to us to use them to our benefit.

Where Do We Go With Technology?

Since computers have been invented, a primary goal has been Artificial Intelligence – to design computers that “think” like people. A related utopian ( or dystopian? ) goal has been Singularity – where computers surpass humans’ abilities. In theory, computers would teach themselves to evolve much faster than humans to the point of becoming “super” beings with abilities we as humans can only dream of.
 Perhaps a more worthy goal for computers than making them think like people – or surpass people, would be to make computers that can help people be better people.

 By better – not necessarily smarter, bigger, stronger and more accomplished.

Actually happier, healthier, more fulfilled, more ethical and harmonious (with others and our surroundings).

 How can we do this?


Me and Colin Hanks and Tower Records

At a Q and A after Sacramento’s Tower Theater weekend premiere of Sacramento-based Tower Records documentary “All Things Must Pass” last week:

I asked director Colin Hanks, a native Sacramentan,  about his own Tower memories and experiences that stood out. So many of course. Deconstructing CD long boxes to put on his bedroom wall. Buying Tom Petty tickets at Tower Broadway in 1990.

I worked for Tower Records from 1992 – 1998. First for six months as a clerk at Tower Books Watt Ave during a down time in my life when I couldn’t do much else. Then back into IT, eventually designing and developing Tower’s supply chain management systems for the company’s new brand of superstores, which combined Records, Books and Video.

Best times of my career; I only left because Tower wouldn’t pay techies more than their lower-tier VP’s, which was around 50k a year back then. Except for Russ Solomon and Senior VP’s, no one was ever paid much working at Tower. It was a labor of love and loyalty, going both ways. In my case, those only went so far. I immediately made six figures elsewhere.

My favorite memories are of road trips opening new Tower stores. Corporate employees who were also specialists in their fields travelled as the “A Team” to set up new stores. Trips during my spell at Tower were to New York City, Nashville, Washington DC and Chicago, among others. One of the Tower mantras was work hard and play harder. Great times in great cities.

Like Colin, I also shopped at Tower from when I first had spending money (in my case the 70’s), until its closure in 2006.

Nothing has come close to replacing the communal shopping experience of buying music, books and video during the latter half of the 20th Century.

Azealia Banks is a star!

Girl has ar-rived.